Air Transport World

If a passenger falls ill... (passenger service)

Lunch is about to be served in the business-class cabin of an Icelandair Boeing 757, en route from Reykjavik to Baltimore. Suddenly, a man rushes forward, carrying his young son, who is screaming. A deep cut is in the child's hand, where it was caught in the armrest housing of a tray table. Two flight attendants put meal trays aside and reach quickly for pressure bandages. The father passes out at the sight of the wound but the flight attendants work expertly to administer first aid.

In response to a PA request, two doctors come to the scene. On the narrow galley floor, working alongside the inert form of the father, the impromptu team soon has the boy's hand tightly bandaged. Ammonia inhalants revive the father and also a woman in a bulkhead seat who has fainted. The flight attendants resume meal service with apologies-incredibly-for the delay. When the aircraft arrives in Baltimore, an ambulance is waiting at the gate.

An airliner in flight is anything but the ideal place to have a medical emergency. A lot of people are in a confined space and no "911 " can be dialed. But because so many people of all ages and health conditions fly, in-flight medical emergencies are a fact of airline life. During a 12-month period in 1987 and 1988, the FAA recorded 1,306 serious cases.

Airlines prepare to handle illness and injury by training their crews and providing supplies to aid the emergency response. No uniformity exists among airlines in the supplies, procedures for their use or the training. ICAO standards state only that aircraft should be equipped with "accessible and adequate medical supplies appropriate to the passenger-carrying capacity of the aeroplane in question.... Such supplies should comprise: 1) A first-aid kit for normal use and 2) one or more medical kits for emergency use stowed so as to be readily accessible and near an exit." ICAO also suggests some general types of items to be included in the kits. …

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